I look at him hard. “I don’t disagree with you,” I tell him, feeling not resentment for him but a distant sort of pity. “That is when you and I went wrong. But if I gained Bridget and Linus, and all I lost in the process was you, then I can only say it was totally worth it.”

Seth can only nod to that. His face is red, and I’m sure there’s plenty of anger in him—he hates when I give him instructions, whenever I plan things for both of us, and this breakup speech has been nothing if not unilateral. But maybe he also feels something close to what I’m feeling right now. Sheer, unadulterated relief. After all, there is no evidence that either of us has been happy together for a long, long time. And if it weren’t for the week that just happened, there’s no chance I would have done anything about it.

“You’re off the hook, Seth Charles,” I tell him. “You’ll be happier in the end.”

He sighs deeply. “We both will,” he says, sorrow mixing with relief. “The thing is, Wendy, most of the time I feel like you and the kids are holding me back.”

I take in the sting of the words, like a slap you know you kind of deserve.

“But at the same time, I sure as hell wasn’t bringing out the best in you either,” he adds. “So yeah. This is for the best for both of us. After all, you deserve to find someone who can do that too. Someone who will stop holding you back.”

I nod at him, because he’s absolutely right. I nod, and then I pick up Anna Joy and turn and walk away, toward the elevator, moving fast, wishing I could move faster despite the rolling IV stand dragging by my side and the kiddo on my hip. I have somewhere to be, now that I’ve finally done the right hard thing. Because thanks to Celeste, I know exactly the man who brings out the best in me, and I need to let him know that as soon as I possibly can.


My goodness, but my hospital room is abustle. There are so many people in here, and none of them seem interested in answering any of my questions. In fact, one of them keeps putting a mask over my face as if to shut me up. I take it off, for the third time in a row, and this time I just shout, “HELLO! WOULD SOMEONE TELL ME WHAT THE H-E DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS IS GOING ON?”

“Did she just say ‘H-E double hockey sticks’?” asks someone near my lower spine.

“Probably a good sign for neurological function,” jokes someone else.

I’m about ready to sit up and walk out of there if someone doesn’t answer me, but luckily someone does. A nice lady with a face shield who says, “Celeste, you’re in the hospital after you were hit in the chin by a line drive to second. It snapped your neck back, and now we are trying to make sure there’s no long-term spinal damage. You’re supposed to be resting comfortably right now while we do our job.”

“Oh. Crap,” I say.

“At the very least, please leave the mask on and hold still, ok?”

I nod vigorously and let her reposition the mask.

“Hold STILL,” she repeats.

I stop nodding.

“Very good. Now, the anesthesiologist is back, and he’s going to start doing his thing, ok, so . . . ok, count backward from ten. Ready?”

I don’t nod, but thinking it must be ok, I say, “Ten.”

A few seconds later, after what seems like a very slow eyeblink, I feel groggy and achy, and somehow, Hugh is in the room with me.

“She’s awake!” he says.

“Hugh!” I say.

“Wiggle your toes,” he says to me. I do, and he laughs. “Nice one, babe. Nice one.”

“What happened?” I ask, the fog over my eyes lifting but my words coming out very slowly. “Did I do ok?”

He gingerly leans over and kisses me softly. Our first kiss in a week. I savor every millimoment of it.

“You did perfectly.”

“Oh, darling,” I say through the mists of the drugs. “I’ve had such crazy dreams.”

Hugh moves hair out of my face and smiles at me indulgently—I don’t think he can understand my slurred words yet. My brain is working faster than my mouth, though. It’s thinking through everything that’s happened, at a surprising pace. Figuring out how I got here, what went down beforehand, and what has to happen now. Figuring out who I have to—no, who I get to—become.

And later, when Hugh can understand me again, I’ll tell him all of it. Not about the body swap, maybe, not anytime soon. But about who I’ve been lately and who I want to be next. About how, when I said goodbye to my past and started our future, I didn’t forget it all. I didn’t forget the painful lessons of what it meant to grow up the way I did. The responsibility I felt to give my children something better. How beholden I felt to the man who gave me a different life and how little debt and love have to do with one another. Wendy is, as she often is, partly right. Hugh doesn’t owe me anything. And I don’t owe him either. We’re not a balance sheet, my value doesn’t come from what pennies I save us, and I’m not on my own at the end of the day. Hugh and I aren’t like that. We float or sink together.

We float, I decide. We float because I am no one’s anchor. What we have is buoyant. What we have is beautiful.

But there’s no way I can explain all that to him right now. Instead I just find his hand with mine, hold it as tight as I can, and dream of who I will be now that I’m not “just a housewife.” I’m Celeste Mills Mason, and I’m the mother of three wonderful children and the wife of a loving man, and there’s absolutely no “just” about it.




Two days later, I am home from the hospital. Wendy is, too—and Seth is staying with his parents, who live an hour away. Hugh has been obsessed with building a firepit in our backyard ever since I told him everything. Not everything—he doesn’t need to know he was sleeping next to his neighbor for the last week—but the home truths that have come of it. I tell him about the themed bento box lunches and the dollar-per-Dixie-cup gazpacho and the over-the-top science fair cupcakes—not that there is anything overtly wrong with them—but how instead of somehow making me worthy, they are keeping the people I want to know at a distance. They are a disguise I put on to justify my existence.

Wendy has seen right through that disguise.

Hugh’s eyebrows shoot way up when I tell him I finally have a real friend and who it is, but then he catches himself quickly. “She’s whip smart,” he says in a quick recovery. “She can see what a gem you are.”

See, this is what it is about Hugh. His Celeste-colored glasses are the best thing that ever happened to me. But instead of soaking it up when he says things like that, I’ve spent too much of our marriage wondering what’s wrong with him to love me so much.

I wrap him up in another tight hug, something I’ve been doing so often lately I can’t even keep count. The time has come for me to start soaking him up. To put on my own pair of Celeste-colored glasses. To tell my kids a few stories about my life when I was young. To let my story show through to anyone worthy of seeing it. Wendy was right all along: there’s nothing inherently exhausting about my life—except pretending to be someone I’m not.

And I’m NOT someone who wants to go to work outside the home. Not now, and maybe not ever. I can’t say for sure—after all, a week ago I was wondering about substitute teacher certifications. But that wasn’t because I wanted to be a substitute teacher, necessarily. It was because I believed that once Joy was in school full time, my value to our family would be used up.

I shake my head at my stupid self. How many times has Hugh said our family has a wonderful balance? How many times have I thought that myself? How many times has a mom thanked me for picking up their kid when they were stuck in a meeting, or a teacher thanked me for coming into the classroom when they were low on time or materials?

How many times have those tiny acts filled my heart?

Why would I give all that up? There are seasons to our lives, and I’m not done with this one yet.

I finish up what I’m mixing in the kitchen and open the french doors to the screened porch. She’s waiting there, my first friend in Birchboro Hills, with a bag of marshmallows and a box of graham crackers. At her feet, Anna Joy is happily making a mess with water pens while Wendy rebraids her hair.

“Don’t be angry,” I say when I show her what I’m carrying.

She laughs. “Pink sangria.”

“Without vodka. It’s literally the only mixed drink I know how to make.” Well, aside from something my cousins used to make in a Fleet Farm bucket. “At least it’s not a bag of peanut M&M’S.”

“Nah. Attempted murder is really more my thing.” Anna Joy squirms, and Wendy coos, “Almost done, baby.”

“Manslaughter,” I correct Wendy. “It’s manslaughter when it’s accidental, and after the week that came before it, I don’t think any jury would convict.”

“Thank you for being so forgiving about me almost putting you in a wheelchair,” Wendy tells me as I pour her a glass.

“Thank you for being so forgiving about me almost killing off your body,” I say in return and raise my own.

“There.” She puts the ponytail holder at the bottom of the thick Anne of Green Gables–style braid she’s made and taps Joy’s head with the flat of the brush. “Shall we go see the new firepit?”